Jackson C. Frank – Forest of Eden
Another day, another 10″ vinyl reviewed here at Song, by Toad. It’s an odd format, honestly. Given they cost almost exactly as much to manufacture as a 12″, I would tend to be tempted to go for the bigger artwork and cut the music at 45rpm, personally, but then I suppose I now have an odd collection of really disparate 10″ releases which seem strangely bound together, even if for no better reason than the stubborn adherence to a weird format.
This release could somewhat uncharitably be described as scraping the very bottom of the barrel, when it comes to Jackson C. Frank recordings. Not that they’re bad, and not that I didn’t really enjoy listening to this odd little release.
Instead, I meant it in the sense that there is just so very little material out there, and Frank himself cut such an enigmatic, tragic figure that there is interest even in this: a single song intended for his second album (which never materialised), a Christmas tune and a couple of self-recorded demos.
Debut album aside, I think this might be about all we have of Frank and for those of us who know him by legend alone, it is the very ‘last demo on earth’ barrel-scraping which makes this release so compelling. The story behind the man is so intertwined with the music he made that hearing him chat in between takes on side two in particular feels like listening to a voice from the grave.
I know that’s the same every time we listen to music by a dead musician, but in this particular case the tragic (and in the Greek sense the word ‘tragic’ is more specific than normal) nature of his fall makes it feel all the more poignant.
So in one sense this is pretty thin: one lost song and some scratchy demos from another acoustic singer-songwriter from the sixties with a penchant for a rather dark turn of phrase. But in another it brings a precious, if morbidly fascinating glimmer of reality to a man who due to having such limited output exists almost as much as a legend as he does as a musician.jackson c frank